6 Things nobody tells you that happen to your body after the baby is born.

During pregnancy you’re so focused on giving birth and having a newborn.  You make a birth plan, you decorate the nursery, you have a baby shower.  Your house is inundated with tiny things and new equipment.  You are prepared!

But then you have the baby and holy shit!! WTF is happening to me?  So here’s a little information on what you can expect once you’ve had your baby.  Hopefully it will reassure you that you’re not dying and you can file it in the ‘things people don’t tell you about having a baby’ part of your brain.

  1. You Might feel like you’re going to pass out when your milk comes in.
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    Help! My milk just came in!


    My milk came in quickly – especially considering I’d had a C Section.  I remember it vividly.  It was a Saturday night and all the Lactation Consultants had gone home for the night.  It was about midnight and the baby had been slumbering peacefully on my chest.  A nurse came to do his hearing test and I took the opportunity to use the restroom.  A few seconds after I stood up I experienced the mother of all head rushes and was close to passing out.  I got myself to the toilet and just sat there sweating.  It felt like all the blood in my body had gone to my breasts.  They were suddenly ENORMOUS!!  Yup, my milk had come in and I felt elated and awful at the same time.  Luckily the fever and lightheadedness only lasted an hour or two but it was freaky as I had no idea what was happening to me.

  2. You’ve never known thirst until now!
    If you’re breastfeeding then you’re in for a treat.  Every time your baby latches on it will feel as though the Sahara desert just took up residence in your mouth.  You will feel like a raisin – devoid of moisture.  Your arm will reach out in desperation for a water bottle.  The relief brought from drinking is as close to an orgasm as you’ll want to get at this moment in your life!  I highly recommend putting electrolytes in your water to give you a little extra burst of energy as it can be exhausting.  The sensation lessens eventually but it takes a long time.
  3. Lets talk hunger
    dinner for one

    This may have satisfied my hunger. Maybe


    Ever heard the expression “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse”?  I’m pretty sure that was coined by a breastfeeding Mother.  In those first few weeks you may well experience a hunger like no other.  I personally had no stop light.  My Mother would cook a Sunday roast and I would go back for seconds, thirds and I’m embarrassed to say fourth’s too.  I simply could  not satisfy my appetite.  That’s the real reason they tell new mothers to keep snacks nearby.  Truth is that a snack won’t be enough so make sure you keep about 5 nearby.

  4. Night Sweats
    My son was born during the summer and we bed shared so for the first day or two I thought that his little body combined with the warm nights was the cause for my nightly sweats.  It wasn’t until my friend asked me if I’d had the sweats that I discovered that this was all part of the joys of Motherhood!  And then they really intensified!  I would wake up and feel like all of the water I’d been frantically hydrating with throughout the day was leaving my body in one huge exodus.  I tried sleeping on a towel but it’s uncomfortable and it felt even worse than sheets once the sweats hit.  It doesn’t last too long – maybe a couple of weeks and is your bodies way of getting rid of all that excess fluid that built up during your pregnancy!
  5. Am I going bald?
    It wasn’t until my hair started falling out that I realized that I hadn’t had to pull hair out of the plug once during my pregnancy.  A few months after having my son I seemed to be doing it after every shower.  During pregnancy your hair often stops doing its natural shedding which is why a lot of women have really great pregnancy hair.  I was one of those!  After my body regulated I started losing it like a normal person – well, a bit more intensely than a normal person but a lot of my friends felt sure that they were going bald!  Don’t worry, you are not going bald – you’re just getting back to normal!
  6. Poops, Poops, Poops
    Your first poop after having a baby will be a terrifying and glorious thing.  Some hospitals like you to have a bowel movement before they’ll let you go home.  Others will just ask that you let them know if you don’t have one within a certain time frame.  You’ll take stool softeners and I recommend you keep taking them until things get back to normal in that department.  You think it’s over once you’ve had that first poop?  Wrong!  My first poop took about 4 days and I naively felt relief.  It took another 5 days before the second one arrived and of course it happened whilst I was breastfeeding.  At that stage you don’t want to disturb the latch!  Picture me, baby on a my breast friend pillow trying to take care of myself one handed!  (actually please don’t picture that!)  After a couple of weeks everything normalized and I became less obsessed with my bowels!

 

A lot of women are going to be given a wild ride with the hormones, crying at commercials, flowers, not being able to find the remote etc.  Thankfully the pregnancy hormones had zero effect on me.  I often wonder if that’s due to my having gotten used to excessive hormones during my many IVF treatments.  Maybe it was just because I was so blissfully happy that my child was finally here that nothing could burst my bubble? Maybe it was due to my getting great sleep which, lets face it, is highly unusual for the mother of a breastfeeding newborn!!  For sure I was one of the lucky ones.   I had a lot of support from my hospital, multiple nurse visits and a doula visit and they would all remark on how chilled out I was for a new Mother.  Had they met me a year before they would not have made those same comments.  I was not mentally chilled when facing infertility no matter how I seemed to the outside world.

So ladies, rest assured that you are normal!  Birth is not the end of pregnancy.  The 4th trimester is real.  Go easy on yourself but also keep an eye on yourself and if something doesn’t seem right always call your doctor.

 

What you need to know about bed sharing.

PSA

Every parent needs to make the choice that is right for their family when it comes to their childs sleeping arrangement.  I have some strong opinions about bed sharing and crying it out (and countless other things too!) but ultimately I respect other peoples choices.  I have met many healthy, well adjusted humans who slept in a crib when they were babies.  A safe, healthy child is all that matters.

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Fast Asleep – 1 week old.*

As I was thinking about which aspect of being a brand new Mother I should write about, I happened to be watching the news.  Up popped the feel good story of the baby gorilla (Moke) who was just born.  The gentle way the Mother kissed her newborn and placed her on her chest to sleep gave me my inspiration… co sleeping.

 

Like most expectant first time Mothers, I dutifully purchased a crib and set it up in the nursery.  I had a pack and play and the Arms Reach Co Sleeper (borrowed from a friend) at the ready.  I had no idea where the baby would sleep but I certainly felt like I had all bases covered!

Fast forward to the hospital.  On my sons first night of life earth side he was placed in the plastic bassinet next to my bed.  I couldn’t sleep as I was staring at him and felt a void that I couldn’t explain.  He suddenly started vomiting and making choking noises.  Somehow I pulled myself up and rolled him over just as a nurse walked in.  I was terrified that he would have choked to death had I not been awake.  As a C Section baby, this phenomenon is very common.  Having not passed through the birth canal he still had a lot of fluid in his system.  This was him getting rid of it.  I can attest to the fact that it is very frightening and I didn’t sleep at all for the rest of the night as I was watching him and of course holding him and forcing myself to stay awake.

The next day I didn’t let him go.  When night rolled around he was propped safely under my arm.  I am a light sleeper so whenever anyone came in the room I would pretend to be awake.  Thankfully my night nurse was wonderful and told me not to worry, that he wasn’t going anywhere and that we would both sleep better with one another.

We slept 7 hours that night.

The third night, I had the same nurse.  Once again he slept on my chest.  We slept 8 hours that night (with the obligatory hospital wake ups of course.)

I was blessed with a child that only woke once a night to feed and as he hadn’t lost too much weight, nobody was forcing us to feed every couple of hours.

When I brought him home and looked at all the options, I knew there was only one.  I made sure that my sleeping environment was free from dangers. I wasn’t worried about rolling onto him as I could barely move after the surgery!  I wasn’t taking any drugs other than Ibuprofen as I couldn’t stand the way that the Percocet made me feel and had stopped taking them as soon as I could.

Sleeping with my infant felt like the most natural, safe thing to me.  I could feel his breathing and he could feel mine.  It was summer so neither of us wore anything other than our diapers (haha – gotta love the post birth sanitary towels.)  We were skin to skin and sleeping like a dream in the cuddle curl position (more about this later.)  He woke up once at around 1am and again at 6am and was good til 8 or 9am.  I had never slept so well.

Infertility and pregnancy had done a number on my sleep.  I had been kept awake for 2 years worrying that my life choices would leave me childless.  Then whilst pregnant I developed insomnia for the last few months which, combined with the frequent pee trips meant that I was very sleep deprived by the time I gave birth.  I figured it was training for when he arrived but I got lucky and the reverse was true.

The problem with co sleeping is that there are a lot of people who will tell you that you’re creating a bad habit, that you’re going to kill your baby, that your child will never sleep alone. You’ll also be told that your child will be needy.  I’ll address those here:

You’re creating bad habits

This is only true if you think that your child taking comfort from proximity to you instead of a pacifier/special blanket or toy is a bad thing.  Bed sharing infants rarely have attachments to inanimate objects.  I’ve seen so many mothers fret that their child has lost their blanket and can’t sleep, or their pacifier has fallen out and they’re awake again!  Nobody thinks a favorite blanket or toy is a bad habit do they?

You’re going to kill your child / its dangerous

If you follow safe sleeping guidelines then this isn’t going to happen.  SIDS has never been known as co-sleeping death.  It has been known as Cot death.  If anything sharing a bed with your child can lower the risk of SIDS as explained in this Dr Sears article.  Most instances of child mortality from Co sleeping occurs after an exhausted parent falls asleep on a couch or chair and the baby slips down and suffocates.  It is also more likely to happen when a parent is abusing alcohol/drugs.  There were nights when I felt exhausted from a day of cluster feeding, so I would place my son in the co sleeper for the first stretch of the night and then bring him in when I was rested.

Your child will never sleep alone!!

Eventually they will.  But chances are, if you wait for them to initiate it, then it will take a long time (which is fine by me!)  By age 5 or so most children have left the family bed and are sleeping in their own rooms.  It’s important to always give them their own space to go when they are ready.  I got rid of the crib and my son has a toddler bed languishing for him.  At least he knows it is there!  Like anything, when you’ve had enough, its possible to change the arrangement.

You’ll end up with a needy child.

The reverse is actually true.  Always being there to meet your childs needs – even in the middle of the night means that they cry for shorter periods (if at all.)  You’ll find that your child is even more independent.  It doesn’t eliminate the periods of clinginess that are developmentally normal but it does foster independence from an early age.  In fact there’s a lot of benefits such as better health, happier and well adjusted kids, which you can read about in this article.

One thing that you may encounter when you bed share is unsolicited advice from your pediatrician.  I firmly believe that they should stick to giving medical advice unless we ask for parenting advice.  I have been told that my baby doesn’t need to be fed at night once they hit 4 months.  I’ve been advised to cry it out.  Bear in mind that my child and I sleep well and that his wake ups have always been minimal so I wasn’t asking for advice. Besides,  I am vehemently against Cry It Out (but I’ll still be friends with you if you did it.)  I had to change pediatricians 4 times (3 within the same practice) before I found one that I liked.  One that said “if it’s working for your family then that’s great, if it stops working then there’s other things you can do.”

If you encounter criticism from family/friends then remember – it’s none of their business.  Your baby, your choice.  You could send them some of the articles I’ve linked to though, or google your own.  There are so many out there.  Also remember that most of the rest of the world bed share and their infant mortality from SIDS rate is far, far lower than ours.

The Cuddle Curl is your friend

The safest and most natural way to share your sleeping space with a breastfeeding infant is called the cuddle curl.  In this position your child is cradled and you are unable to roll onto them.  You’ll probably find that you naturally get into this position but you can read more about it in this article.

My son and I continue to share a bed.  He is 20 months old.  I work at night so on those nights, my Mother gets him to sleep and he spends the first stretch on his own.  We started doing this when he was very young so that I would have a few hours after he went to sleep to have some alone time.  It works for us.  Until recently I would nurse him when I got home so he would sleep longer.  Now he’s night weaned, he doesn’t even notice when I come home!

The mornings are my favorite.  My son wakes up with a smile.  He has never cried upon waking to find himself alone and needing to get my attention.  We laze in bed until 7am and he’s fine with this. (sadly he rarely sleeps until 7am anymore).  He gives lovely hugs, plays with his feet, talks to the dog or sings me songs.  It’s super cute and I cherish these precious times. Before I know it he will be big, sleeping in his own room and wanting to hang with his friends.  I’ll be so proud of the independent man he is becoming while cherishing those sweet days when we slept curled together in our bed on the floor!

* I didn’t have any pictures of us bed sharing that weren’t naked so the picture posted is a cute sleeping image of my little one.  He is being watched and is not on a suitable sleeping surface for bed sharing! 

A Breastfeeding Story.

Firstly let me start by saying that I believe that ‘Fed is Best’.  I feel that there is an inordinate amount of pressure on women to breastfeed.  I also believe that women are set up to fail.  We are scared that it’s not going to work before we have even given birth.  We are filled with stories of engorgement, thrush, tongue/lip ties etc.  A great disservice is being done.  Women need to be lifted up and supported (no pun intended!) We need to step back and tell ourselves that if we want to do it, then we can and if it doesn’t work out then we need to create a culture where we allow one another to walk away without guilt.

End of PSA.

Here is my story:

The best piece of advice I received while doing my hospital tour was this:

“Do whatever you can to avoid having visitors in the hospital.  Put off family and friends until you get home.  Focus on learning how to feed your baby and getting to know your baby without the constant interruption of people coming in and out of your room.  If you must have visitors set a 15 minute limit on them before they arrive.”

161020 Tania & Xenon Panasewicz

My Ride or Die

I remember thinking to myself how this nurse should perhaps mind her own business a little.  I thought she was too harsh and jaded or maybe just sick of people coming in and out of a ward that has 24 hour visiting allowed?

Some part of what she said must have had an effect on me however.  I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone that the baby had arrived until 24 hours after his birth so that I could evaluate how I was feeling.   I also figured that as a single woman whose mother was going to be at the birth, it would be easy to not have visitors.

Fast forward to the day my son was born. I was in a euphoric blur after his first feed, my boobs were clearly going to be out all day and I was so grateful that nobody knew that my son had arrived.

Breastfeeding as a first time mother is no joke.  I say this as a person who had an incredibly easy, painless breastfeeding journey.  Even so, for the first 48 hours I was constantly wondering “how is a person supposed to achieve all this with just one set of hands?”

For the first 48 hours I had to enlist the help of a lactation consultant every.single.time my son wanted to feed.  C Section had rendered me incapable of shifting myself into position, rearranging my pillows and holding a baby at the same time.  Then working out how to hold his head and my boob simultaneously was it’s own special conundrum.  Don’t even talk to me about hand expressing!  I would try for a minute then just hit the buzzer and some wonder woman would come in and position him, squeeze my boob a little and away he would go.

Lactation consultants are amazing but they all have slightly different ways of doing things.  They have their ‘holds’ that they think are the easiest and I found that they were constantly putting my son in positions that felt unnatural to me.  I didn’t want to hold my baby like a football!! I wanted to cradle him and I made that clear.  Luckily I had a little confidence thanks to a book that a friend had given me – making me promise I would read it before giving birth.  I’m going to do the same for you…

161020 Tania & Xenon Panasewicz

2 months old – his 2nd photoshoot.

If you are thinking of breastfeeding, I cannot recommend the book “Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy – A Photographic Guide for Mom and Those who Help Her” by Laura Keegan enough.  It’s mainly pictures with just a little text.  It gave me the confidence I needed to cancel out the worries I had about failing!  Just remember – Open Wide and Nipple to Nose.  The other great advice I was given was to use Earth Mama Organics nipple butter. I used it religiously and never had a chapped nipple… perhaps coincidence but maybe not.

2 days after his birth my sons little mouth started rooting.  I got him in position like I had every time before and this time, instead of having to hit the button for help, he latched on like a champ all by himself!!!  Oh my goodness, the elation I felt!

We were going to be able to master this.  We felt like an unstoppable team and I never looked back.

I was so grateful that I had followed the advice of that nurse and kept my room free from people.  The only exceptions had been a fifteen minute visit from my Grandfather (right after a feed!) and another short visit from a friend whose baby I had been the first person after her husband to hold. I also didn’t mind this friend seeing my giant exposed breasts!  It was just my Mother for much of the time, my newborn and me.

By the time I took my son home 2 days later we were like old pros at the nursing game.  I no longer needed my breasts to be constantly on display.  It still took a few attempts to latch him on but it no longer worried me, I knew we would get there.

20 months later and he is still going strong.  A milk fiend.  If you had told me that I would be nursing a toddler, I’d have laughed at you.  I used to say that if my child could pull at my top and ask for milk then that meant it was time to stop.  Well, my son can do both of those things now and I have no intentions of stopping until he is ready (Or I am done.)  I think I’m addicted to the endorphins (so long as they aren’t happening at 3am).  This child may well be my only child so it will be a bittersweet day that he no longer needs the comfort that he gets at my breast.  I’ll be grateful that he is grown and becoming more independent but I will dearly cherish the memories of the baby he was.

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C Section – a birth story.

I am sorry to say that I was one of those people who thought that a C Section birth was not a ‘real’ birth or a ‘natural’ birth.  I remember rolling my eyes at women who were ‘too posh to push’.

Not to say that I didn’t have respect for the existence of C Section as a practice.  Of course I realized that it was a necessary and life saving procedure.  I just didn’t feel like it should be the ‘go to’ for so many people.

There are so many things that I have sat in judgement of merely because I hadn’t experienced them and therefore didn’t truly understand.  Infertility is an equalizer and an educator.  It really does make you think about things in ways that you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking.  It has also made me a better, less judgmental person in all aspects of life.

As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed with having a Unicornuate Uterus and therefore I spent a lot of my pregnancy concerned that I was going to run out of space and go into labor prematurely.  I joined a wonderful Facebook group and soon saw that the success rate of carrying to term was very good.  It made me feel a lot better but didn’t change the fact that once my LO reached a certain size the chance of his being able to go head down went to virtually zero.

Sure enough my son lounged in my uterus with his feet in his face and his bottom on my bladder for almost all of my pregnancy.  A very stubborn  breach baby!

Scheduled C Section it was.  And I did feel cheated out of the birth experience I had dreamed of.  I wanted the water birth, the doula and the self hypnosis, not the blue cloth, surgeons knife and spinal block.  Knowing that birth doesn’t often go according to plan, I resigned myself to my fate, learned a lesson about my prior judgey self and set about making an alternate birth plan.

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Day before C section with my first baby.

There is nothing more surreal than going to bed knowing that the next day you will be a Mother.  After all the pain, the procedures, the heartbreak and the longing, I was going to be a Mum!!  Of course I barely got a wink of sleep.

 

I remember the car journey to the hospital at 5.30am vividly.  It was a hot summer day and the sun was rising.  I was terrified of the surgery but so joyful that I would meet my son in a few short hours.

Prep for a C Section is intense.  Showers with disinfecting soap, IV line (which they couldn’t get in due to my tiny veins – ouch!), ultrasound to check baby was still breach then off to the OR where they did the Spinal.  Nobody is allowed in the room with you until after the spinal so that was scary for me.  The anesthesiologist was amazing and talked me through everything.  My surgeon (whom I had hand selected based on his reputation for being a perfectionist) was also wonderful and talked me through what was about to happen.  He even sang me a song!

Once the spinal was done my Mother was brought in.  The sensation of losing your legs is horrible.  I’m not gonna lie… I found the whole thing terrifying.  The tugging and pulling, each second felt like 5 minutes.  I had no idea how much sensation there would be.  There was no pain but I felt like a corpse.  My Mother talked me down and my anesthesiologist talked me through it.  Finally after what felt like 3 hours my son emerged and his high pitched screams filled the room!  He had what is known as a ‘gentle c section’ which means that he had pushed himself out of the incision rather than being tugged.  The cord clamping was slightly delayed too and my placenta was saved for me and encapsulated later that day.

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My Newborn Son, a few minutes old. Cutest Squish!

Unfortunately both of our temperatures had dropped significantly during the birth and he had to be placed under the heat lamp for a few minutes whilst we were both warmed up.  They held him up for a moment so I could see him under the heat lamp but I didn’t see his face again for an hour.  Once they put him on me, under blankets, I wasn’t allowed to look at him as we had to be kept warm.  I didn’t mind.  My son was on my chest and I could feel his little movements from the outside.  He was so familiar to me.  I was filled with endorphins and overwhelming, completing love.

It took a while to stitch me up, I went through the shakes (before my son was brought to me) but it was finally over and I left the OR one blissfully happy Mother!